TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Book Review: How FDR Used the IRS to Silence Critics of the New Deal

New Deal Red State Book Review, The Sword of the IRS (reviewing New Deal or Raw Deal?: How FDR's Economic Legacy Has Damaged America (2008), by Burton W. Folsom, Jr. (Hillsdale College)):

“My father,” Elliott Roosevelt observed of his famous parent, “may have been the originator of the concept of employing the IRS as a weapon of political retribution.” ...

In this chapter, Mr. Folsom points to a number of examples where FDR ordered the IRS to investigate people who were critical of his policies. He also told the IRS to stop investigations that might harm those who were helping him (such as then congressman and future president LBJ). The scariest part of this was that FDR was willing to use the IRS as a weapon against private US citizens. Take for example William Randolph Hearst (newspaper publisher), or Father Charles Coughlin (priest and radio personality). In both of these cases, Roosevelt had the IRS comb through the financial records of these individuals looking for something he could use against them. Why? They dared to oppose the New Deal. Neither of these individuals were found guilty of anything. Others, such as Moses “Moe” Annenberg, weren’t so lucky.

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A second book could be about FDR using the FBI to attack his critics. You could make a library with these stories.

Posted by: Woody | May 24, 2011 6:29:11 PM

Unfortunately, in historical circles, even if this is true, the end justifies the means in the minds of many FDR supporters.

Unfortunately, many would also say that Nixon was corrupt, who did pretty much the same type of shenanigans.

Posted by: AZ | May 25, 2011 9:38:18 AM